Home IT management Handling Change Through Stoicism

Handling Change Through Stoicism

Handling Change Through Stoicism


With a new year comes inevitable change. There is the trivial turnover of appointments and needing to remember to end date stamps with ‘23’ and not ’22,’ something we will all forget for the next week or so.

There may be more personal changes, like a better diet or adding reading to your daily routine, colloquially known as new year’s resolutions. There will be financial changes; hopefully in a positive direction with potentially high cost-of-living salary increases, but the current instability of the stock market also suggests further negative changes may still be on the horizon.

We are still in the early days of determining what exactly will change. This may be obvious for the market, but even in terms of new year’s resolutions, which we think we control and can decide the outcome, outside factors can ultimately dictate what will happen. You may not foresee the cost and effort of going to the gym three days a week, so your best body will be slightly more modest than predicted.

Ultimately, all we can know is that there will be change. This lack of concrete knowledge terrifies people, especially those in leadership positions who are always supposed to have a firm and steady handle on the wheel. How can you lead without knowing where you will end up, only that you need to move forward?

There are a few routes to go in answering this question. A leader can shrug and relax, knowing she cannot control, so she might as well let go. Or, she can look elsewhere for guidance, like a mentor or competitors. Both are equally valid, but a more self-empowering answer will be the focus here, giving the power to the individual rather than any outside force. We will look at the Stoic response to unknown change.


This column has referenced Stoicism before, specifically regarding the uncertainty connected to the Covid-19 pandemic. The foundational rule of Stoicism – limiting emotional responses to any situation, be it good or bad – clearly can be helpful in circumstances like a pandemic.

MORE FROM FORBESA Stoic’s Guide To The New Stimulus Bill When $600 Just Isn’t Enough

However, Stoics have more to offer us than just during a once-in-a-lifetime global virus. Living as a stoic only during these kinds of events is akin to stopping your gym routine three weeks into January. It will not result in any desired metamorphosis. It is neither a legitimate attempt at getting in shape nor the Stoic lifestyle.

So, what is the Stoic lifestyle anyway?

The Stoic life is a life of moderation. Importantly, this is not exactly the idea of moderation that the Greek philosopher Aristotle theorized a few hundred years earlier. In Aristotelian terms, moderation is active in that you go out and do, just never excessively. In Stoicism, moderation is passive; it is how you react to the world. Your response should never be extreme, even in the most extreme circumstances.

This can be notably helpful when dealing with a change in circumstances, which Stoics are keen to point out, is unavoidable.

One of the most well-known partakers of the stoic philosophy was the emperor Marcus Aurelius, who ruled over Rome sporadically throughout his 58 years. The late Richard Harris brilliantly portrays his wise and stoically moderate demeanor in Ridley Scott’s Gladiator. There is plenty of reason to believe this was his actual demeanor, especially with his writing that still survives.

His treatise Meditations has a section that points to exactly where we need help: unknown change. He asks the reader, “Frightened of change? But what can exist without it? Can any vital process take place without something being changed? It’s just the same with you – and just as vital to nature.”

The emperor pleads with us that to try and withhold change is a mistake of the most basic kind. It is against nature. Furthermore, change is necessary for existence, so attempting to thwart change is trying to stop your own being.

Instead of pushing change away out of fear, people need to realize they are built to handle it. This is what Marcus Aurelius means by saying it is vital to us. It tends to help us grow and develop, but only if we embrace it. Then, by putting this together with reacting to the change in moderation, we come to the stoic answer of dealing with unknown change.

Instead of trying to avoid change, we ought to welcome the possibility. And, as long as we do not overreact to whatever the change may be, we can learn from it and grow with the change.

This is the outlook we should all have towards this most basic and natural phenomenon as we head into the new year.


Source link


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here